Yesterday I posted on the possibility of Charlie Crist abandoning his run for the Republican senatorial nomination in Florida and instead running as an independent. I linked to a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll that showed Crist narrowly ahead, with Democrat Kendrick Meek trailing by just a point and Republican Marco Rubio in third place. But a Public Policy Polling survey (via The Corner) shows Crist helping Rubio: In their poll, Rubio would lead with 34 percent of the vote while Crist and Meeks both trail at 27 percent.
A case could be made based on the PPP numbers that an independent campaign would still be Crist’s best bet, due to his low standing among Republicans. But again, a comparison with Joe Lieberman would be instructive. In 2006, exit polls showed Lieberman winning 54 percent of the independent vote (Ned Lamont got just 35 percent) and 70 percent of the Republican vote (the actual GOP nominee took just 21 percent) while hanging on to 33 percent of Democrats.
By contrast, Crist would win 35 percent of independents, 32 percent of Democrats, and just 18 percent of Republicans. Those numbers may deteriorate further if Crist’s independence is seen as an Arlen Specter-style act of political self-preservation. Lieberman lost the Democratic primary 52 percent to 48 percent. Exit polls showed 73 percent of his primary supporters wanted him to run as an independent. He could credibly make the argument that there was a consensus in the state to retain him as senator, with the exception of a narrow majority of the Democratic primary electorate. Charlie Crist can make no comparable argument.